Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top miner likely to go to court over carbon tax

FORTESCUE Metals Group chief executive Andrew Forrest reckons legislating the latest mining tax draft would be "economic vandalism". Mr Forrest hit out at the proposed mineral resource rent tax on Monday, claiming the draft released late on Friday gave multinationals such as BHP, Rio and Xstrata a huge advantage over Australian home-grown companies.

"I have no issue paying the taxes which elected representatives of our great country levy against me," Mr Forrest said during a conference call. "What I have enormous issue with is this tax, because it creates a huge precedent - a tax which penalises me for being an Australian developer and protects the multinationals."

He said the MRRT legislation allows companies to uplift the market value of their assets, which they can use to make depreciation claims. "So that means if you don't have this large market value, like developers don't, then you start paying the tax immediately whereas the multinationals don't start to pay it for decades, if at all," Mr Forrest said.

He said he would seek amendments at meetings on Tuesday with the Government, Independent MPs and the Opposition in Canberra.

Fortescue described the draft legislation, which was released on Friday, as "disappointing and economic vandalism".

The MRRT will apply only to coal producers and iron ore miners, of which Fortescue is one, meaning reaction to the draft has been muted, though smaller coal and iron ore hopefuls in Queensland and Western Australia are examining their options.

Submissions on the draft will not close until July 14.

Treasurer Wayne Swan and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said on Friday: "The draft is not exhaustive and is intended to provide stakeholders with an early overview of the legislation. We encourage stakeholders to make submissions on the preliminary draft."

Asked about the likelihood of Fortescue supporting a High Court challenge to the proposed MRRT, Mr Forrest said it was not possible to say at this stage given the legislation was in draft form and "totally unfinished".

Should the draft legislation remain unchanged, Mr Forrest said he was keen to test the constitutionality of the proposed tax. "As it stands now, any Australian who has a tax which allows multinationals to pay less per dollar of profit than what they do, that should be challenged, that is totally against the Constitution," Mr Forrest said.

"If that is what finally appears, you may be assured that Fortescue and others will challenge a precedent so dangerous that it gives multinationals a major advantage over Australia home-grown companies."

They may challenge for entirely different reasons, however. If the MRRT is challengeable it will be because the Constitution says the states own Australia's mineral wealth, while it's in the ground and therefore might have an exclusive right to tax it. Not an easy case to prosecute considering mining companies have been paying tax, like anyone else, for a very long time now.


Ban on mortgage exit fees will reduce competition

Do-gooder law likely to cost everybody more

AUSTRALIA'S non-bank lenders have fired a new shot in their campaign against the planned abolition of mortgage exit fees, due to take effect on July 1.

Phil Naylor, chief executive of the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia, said yesterday that non-bank borrowers were much less concerned about exit fees than the government suggests, reported The Australian.

"They didn't consult with our industry and it's clear that there will be unintended negative consequences for the non-bank lenders," Mr Naylor said.

He noted that non-bank lenders' share of the Australian mortgage market had dropped from about 15 per cent before the global financial crisis to "almost nil" now and said the abolition of exit fees would reduce it further.

As part of a campaign against bank charges the federal government has moved against exit fees, but the small end of the market has been using those fees to help keep interest charges down.

Mr Naylor said a new MFAA survey of 1000 householders had concluded that only 1.7 per cent of respondents rated exit fees as important, compared with 50.2 per cent who said the interest charged was most important.

Non-bank lenders attract borrowers by offering lower interest rates than the big banks, but their margins are significantly slimmer because they also pay higher rates for funds than the big banks do.


Woman waits 29 hours for surgery at Geelong Hospital

A WOMAN'S 29-hour wait for wrist surgery at Geelong Hospital has prompted an official complaint to state and national health chiefs. Bronwyn Wright was "bumped" seven times as she waited for surgeons to realign her broken wrist, the Geelong Advertiser reports.

Ms Wright was told on Thursday night to fast and arrive for surgery at 11am on Friday for a procedure that involved rebreaking her wrist and securing it with a plate and screws.

By 9.30pm the hospital conceded the surgery would not happen until the following day and fed the hungry and dehydrated patient, who yesterday said she became so frustrated by the delay that she questioned whether she even needed the surgery. "It was traumatic because you do the paperwork, you've got the gown and the cap on and you're ready to go. You're emotionally prepared for the operation," she said yesterday.

"I was emotionally exhausted by the time they took me up to the room (on Friday night). You can see they're trying to do the best they can but there's no clear communication. By that stage I could have eaten someone's hand off."


More Leftist ethics: Exposing their lawbreaking behaviour is unethical????

Rage instead of contrition!

A STATE MP has expressed anger at being outed for parking illegally for three hours in a disabled parking bay. However, Frances Bedford was not the only Labor politician accused of parking illegally last month, with pictures of Tony Piccolo's car in a bay reserved for the disabled also sent to the Sunday Mail.

Mr Piccolo apologised for parking illegally but said he was unaware anyone had been "inconvenienced by the location of my carpark".

The incidents have infuriated Dignity for Disabled MP Kelly Vincent, who said there was "no legitimate excuse" for people without a parking permit to break the law. "It's not OK for one minute or one hour - disabled people need these spaces and it's a form of human-rights abuse to deny them these spaces," the wheelchair-bound MLC said.

Ms Bedford was busted while attending a Community Health Forum at the Tea Tree Gully TAFE campus on Saturday, May 28. She was snapped packing up equipment around 4.40pm - three hours after the car was first spotted.

The Florey MP said the car had been parked illegally because the bay was closest to the building's entrance, although the photographs clearly show empty non-disabled parking spaces opposite. She said she was "really sorry" she subsequently forgot to move the car after her gear had initially been unpacked and taken inside.

She accused a supporter of the Liberal Party of taking the picture. "Has politics stooped to this sort of business now?" she asked.

Mr Piccolo's car was seen parked illegally while he attended the SA Annual Volunteers Recognition Awards function in Seaton on Tuesday, May 10. The Light MP said he had been a passenger in his car, which had been parked after he had been dropped off at the function. "I only became aware that the car had been parked in a disabled carpark when I was taken to the car to leave the function," the Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier said.

Ms Vincent has called on Labor MPs to donate to charity the $253 fine that they would have faced if caught by a parking inspector for parking illegally. "What is really disappointing is that as MPs they are supposed to be role models and should uphold the law," she said. "What hope have we got with all those campaigns educating people about disability carparking when politicians won't adhere to the message?"

Disability Minister Jennifer Rankine has called on her colleagues and all motorists to show some respect to the disabled. "Disability parking spaces are reserved for good reason for those who need them and this should be respected by all other drivers at all times," she said.


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